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  • Indonesian government wants palm oil zero deforestation u-turn

    2015 - 10.14

    The Indonesian government has asked the country's big palm oil companies to backtrack on their zero deforestation pledges because it is reportedly hurting small businesses.

    At last year's United Nations climate change summit, some of the major palm oil companies in Indonesia agreed that they would not accept palm oil from suppliers that were practicing deforestation. However, first local and now national government has said that the smaller providers are not able to meet the environmentally friendly credentials so have urged the larger companies to relax their policies.

    Palm is found in everything from peanut butter and pizza to soap and lip stick. However, the product is a major contributor to deforestation around the world, particularly in east Asia.

    Indonesia is the world's biggest palm oil producer and exporter and its industry employs nearly 5 million workers. The country is also home to the world's third largest tropical forests, but these are coming under risk as plantation firms use "slash and burn" techniques to clear forests to plant palm oil trees, a technique which is also leading to fires in the forests, thus further contributing to deforestation.

    According to Reuters, the government has asked palm oil firms who signed the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) to exempt smallholders. Musdhalifah Machmud, deputy minister for food and agriculture at the coordinating ministry for economic affairs, said that smaller companies are not yet ready for the same level of sustainable forest practices as the big players.

    A representative from an environmental NGO has warned of how damaging it would be to backtrack on the zero deforestation pledge. They said: "This would pretty much ruin the whole attempt to create an industry-wide no-deforestation situation to remove the stigma from Indonesian palm oil."

    As the world's fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases – mainly due to the rate of deforestation in the country – Indonesia will be one of the countries in the spotlight at December's UN climate change conference in Paris. Palm oil is likely to be a topic covered at the summit.

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